Almost there!!

Published on 26 April 2024 at 17:35

We've nearly finished! Although Bob's comment 12 hours ago on the previous post that we had reached Tahiti was a tad premature - we're not quite there yet!


Rangiroa was lovely, but we left on Wednesday evening, heading towards Tahiti. Tides can flow in the pass much quicker than our boat can motor (we had a lovely breakfast one morning watching dolphins leaping and playing in the surf whilst tide was at full flow), but we got the timing just right, and left in flat calm with only 1/2 knot of current.


No wind so we motored overnight, arriving at the island of Makatea at first light yesterday. This island is very different, both from geology and history and we had a great day exploring around it, with a lovely local guide


It was a small atoll, only 8km x 4km, but on the same tectonic plate as Tahiti - when Tahiti was created by volcanic eruptions the plate tipped, pushing Makatea 80m upwards, so it is now an island with 80m cliffs on all sides, and what would have been the lagoon is now the central plateau 80m up. Apparently geologists refer to the "Makatea mechanism".


But our tour was equally about archaeological engineering, because the dried up lagoon bed was found to be mineral rich, and Makatea is the scene of enormous phosphate extraction (primarily for fertiliser), with 111 million tonnes extracted between 1900 and 1966, the first major supply of phosphates in the world. 


The original population was 150, the current population is 90 - but for 65 years there was a population of 3000. 


Basically all the sand was dug out by hand (the only way to get the sand out from between the rocks) with the top few metres removed across 70% of the area of the island, down to the bedrock.


There was then enormous infrastructure to clean and refine the phosphate and transport it to ships - and also to create everything needed to support a workforce of 3000, all provided by the company who brought in technology from the US. 


Makatea had the only railway in French Polynesia, mains electricity, a water bore hole and mains running water throughout the island, the first telephone system in the Pacific, refrigeration systems for meat and ice, shops, accommodation, social and recreation facilities, an enormous port with conveyor systems and a funicular railway, and enormous workshops to keep everything self sufficient.


All of which has been derelict since 1966, and is being overtaken by forest (which grows so well because of all the phosphate fertiliser). 


There are also caves and fresh water pools beneath the island which is largely limestone- so we got to have a go at potholing, swimming around stalactites and stalagmites, too!


We left there early evening and had a beautiful sail through the night, making a steady 7.5-8 knots in fairly flat seas. A couple of rain squalls came through at first light but we now have bright sunshine, lovely steady wind and great sailing, with Tahiti on the horizon!! 


So a great sail to finish, we should be there in a few hours time, then a couple of days before we fly home. Can't believe the trip is nearly over!


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2 months ago

My mistake, took a look at your track and mistook Makatea for Tahiti.

2 months ago

Now you are there! Congratulations on making it to Tahiti!

Dave Biggs
2 months ago

Congrats on reaching Tahiti , glad it was Tahiti and not bust! What a trip you’ve had, seems to have gone by really quickly. Safe trip home and look forward to catching up when you’ve caught your breath.

Sarah Barnes
2 months ago

Loving the D+ABTJ flag tours! Xx

2 months ago

What an amazing adventure. Looking forward to seeing you in Pembrokeshire for lots of stories and pictures